As the old saying goes, it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season. In reality, it’s not.
According to the NFL, Sunday night’s game between the Saints and the Buccaneers will be the 33rd instance of teams meeting in the postseason after one completed a two-game sweep of the other in the regular season. (The Saints beat the Bucs twice.)
The team that accomplished the sweep has a record of 20-12 in the playoff game. When playing at home, the team that swept that opponent has a record of 17-7.
The most recent meeting of teams that had met twice in the regular season, with one sweeping the other, came in the 2017 postseason. The Saints, after beating the Panthers twice, hosted them in the wild card round. New Orleans won round three and completed the sweep, 31-26.
The team that pulled off the swept has a distinct psychological edge. In an observation that is attributed primarily to Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, the team that was swept in the regular season thinks it can win round three. The team that accomplished the sweep knows it can beat the opponent.
In this specific case, Saints coach Sean Payton a 4-0 record against Bruce Arians during his tenure as coach of the Buccaneers. Including Arians’ time as coach of the Cardinals, Payton’s record against Arians is 6-1.
Of course, this situation involves somewhat different dynamics. The first meeting this year came in Week One, the first time Tom Brady ever wore a Tampa Bay game-day uniform. The second came in Week Nine, the first time Antonio Brown ever wore a Tampa Bay game-day uniform. Currently, the Buccaneers are firing on all cylinders, with Brady having 17 games under his belt and a wide array of weapons available: Brown, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Scotty Miller, Cameron Brate, and Leonard Fournette.
Then there’s this: In the divisional round, the team that went 2-0 has a record of only 6-4 when trying to get to 3-0.
Thus, while it’s generally not as hard as believe to beat a team three times in one season, it quite possibly will be more difficult for the Saints to beat the Buccaneers on Sunday night than it was in Week One or Week Nine.